10 10 Trouble

Thursday Troubleshooter: Employee threats must be addressed quickly

Oct. 10, 2013
Employee cannot be allowed to call the shots

QUESTION: I am the office administrator. We have a team member that has been a dental assistant with our practice for years, and this past year she was moved to a front office role. She is exceptional in this role. There have been recent employee and schedule changes that require her to split her role between front office and assisting, but she is refusing to go back to assisting or she will leave the practice. The doctors do not want to lose her because she is an exceptional employee. What should we do?

ANSWER FROM JUDY KAY MAUSOLF of Practice Solutions, Inc:
I understand the doctor’s desire to retain a key employee. However, if team members are allowed to dictate what they will or will not do, it sets the practice up for disaster. It is a double standard and sets the employer up for failure in the future with the rest of the team. Once something like this is allowed to happen it sets a precedence. The rest of the team will lose trust and respect for the leadership and will end up following the employee’s lead. The team will wonder why they shouldn’t get to do or not do what they want. The result is a team holding the practice hostage by threatening to quit and getting whatever they want. When this happens, you can see the overall loss of engagement, and goodwill being replaced by low morale, cynicism, and mistrust. The question to ask is, Is it worth sacrificing the entire office culture for one team member?

I suggest you sit down and have a heart-to-heart with the team member. Start by telling her how much you appreciate having her as part of the team. Explain the change in status of the practice and that you need her to adjust her role for the greater good of the practice. If she refuses to change and is only concerned about WIIFM, it is time to end the relationship. I have found that once you honor one ultimatum there will soon be another. The team expectation is that team members are flexible and support the greater good of the practice, even if it may not be exactly what they want. An awesome overall job description is — Your job is whatever is legal, ethical, and within your licensure, from the moment you check in to the moment you check out, to help the practice thrive and to create a WOW experience for all patients.

You have a tough decision to make. Do you value this person enough in the front office role that you are willing to consider her ultimatum, or do you force the issue and require that she perform in both positions and risk losing a valued team member? If it is an option, perhaps you can talk to her and see if she is willing to consider helping out until you can find someone else to work in the dental assisting role.

If she refuses to do this, then she may not be as invaluable as you think. A great dental office is only as good as its team, and it does not sound like she is being a team player. It is never easy to consider letting a team member go, and it can be even worse to think about filling those vacant positions. However, if you ultimately create an environment that’s better suited to help the dental practice fulfill it's mission, then it is worth the trouble.


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